Second Parliamentary-Public Engagement hosted by the NSFM-Project
On Friday, 20 May 2022, the Members of Parliament met at Safari Court Hotel and Conference Centre for a Parliamentary-Public Engagement on ‘Tackling Climate Change in Namibia – Forestry as Key Sector’. Namibia is one of the countries hit severely by the effects of climate change. One possible solution to tackle climate change is however the forest sector. But, according to the latest FAO report, Namibia lost nearly one-fifth of its forest area during the past 30 years. Therefore, the engagement aimed at equipping the Honourable Members of the National Council with sound knowledge on how forestry can contribute to climate change mitigation and adaptation.
The engagement was officially opened by the Chairperson of the National Council, Hon. Lukas Muha. He anticipated an engagement that will advance ideas about business or economic-related conservancy concepts and strategies while striving to reduce poverty and create job opportunities. Hon. Muha stated that deforestation is a major threat to our natural resources, and it is thus important that the intentional efforts towards the sustainable use of Namibia’s forests are intensified. The Chairperson noted that Namibian forests play a crucial role in stabilising the climate. “They are even one of the most important solutions to addressing the effects of climate change. Increasing and maintaining forests is, therefore, an essential solution to climate change” said the Chairperson.
The setting-the-scene speech was provided by Mr Gonzalo Leitago, Attaché at the Delegation of the European Union to Namibia, on behalf of the Ambassador. He emphasised the fact that 1.6 billion people worldwide depend on the forest for their daily survival directly or indirectly; in Namibia, it is 56% of the population. He also raised awareness of the fact that 1.5 billion tonnes of CO2 are released into the atmosphere due to forest burning but that forests are also huge CO2 storage at the same time.
Between the different presentations of the experts, the recently launched video clips of ‘The Forests of a Desert Land’ were played. All three episodes received a lot of applause and stimulated the participants to think.
The first presentation after the official opening of the engagement was a talk by Ms Albertina Fillipus, a young lecturer from the International University of Management (IUM). She informed the participants about the correlation between climate change and deforestation and concluded with a call for action: ‘Every year on my birthday, I plant a tree. We all need that kind of commitment.’ The Directorate of Forestry provided the next talk. Mr Michael //Otsub criticised that Namibia is lacking awareness-raising on forestry. No local university would offer forestry programmes which would have to be changed. Furthermore, the legal expert from the Environmental Lawyers Network of Namibia (ELNN), Ms Elize Shakalela, outlined the legal principles underpinning the forest sector of Namibia. She stated clearly: ‘We do have the arguments and the law!’. It is to be highlighted that, on this statement, the Director of Ceremonies, at the same time also the Director of the Office of the Chairperson of the National Council, Mr Petrus Kavhura, said that the Chairperson of the Agricultural Management Committee needs a further engagement with the ELNN on that topic. The last expert to present on the engagements’ topic was Mr Leroy Diocotlhe, Founder of Miombo Forestry Products from Katwitwi. He informed the participants on the various steps of the timber value chain and what needs to be done to ensure that more steps of the value chain take place in the country to ensure that Namibia also profits from timber processing.
The discussion that followed the presentations was very lively. For instance, one Councillor from the south said that he first questioned the invitation to the engagement as he felt not responsible for issues related to forestry as forests are mainly found in the northeastern regions. But he then shared his own enlightening with the other participants: ‘I now understand the need for this engagement. We have these lovely forests on which our livelihoods depend, and we need this information countrywide.’ Another Councillor from the Zambezi region informed the meeting that neighbouring countries are illegally entering Namibian territory to harvest timber and other vegetation. He also noted that the cut lines must be revived to protect Namibian forests as well as curb wildfires. The MP also requested funds to capacitate the local communities to manage their conservancies and to take better care of their natural resources. Moreover, a Councilor from Kavango West region chalked up that the communities at the grass-root level were not included in everything the legislative is deciding on. ‘How can we review the forestry legislation without having communities at grass root level being aware of it?’
The engagement concluded with the closing remarks provided by Dr Clemens von Doderer, Resident Representative of the Hanns Seidel Foundation (HSF) Namibia, and the Vote of Thanks provided by Hon. Victoria Kauma, Vice-Chairperson of the National Council. ‘We all appreciate the information we got.’
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